Spirited work, and a move at tackle

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2012 – 6:47 pm

Quarterback Kevin Kolb was talking about how coach Ken Whisenhunt treats the players fairly, not overworking them usually. “We have to reward him with a better effort.”

Practice sure seemed more intense Monday afternoon after the Cards had a disappointing game in Kansas City. There was a scuffle between defensive lineman David Carter and center Scott Wedige and some various whoops and hollering, and the battling went all the way down to the late part of the two-minute drill, when Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson went up for a jump ball in the end zone and while it looked like Peterson had it at first, Fitz wasn’t going to give up the battle as they fell to the ground.

As for the offensive woes of late, answers are at a premium. “If we knew, maybe practice today would have been a little better,” Kolb said. “I’ve been a lot of places and you go through funks like this. To be honest a lot of time it happens in practice a lot when the defense, they know route concepts and stuff like that. You just keep pushing through, trust your keys and keep working hard.”

— The Cardinals made a move in the lineup Monday, with D’Anthony Batiste taking over as first-string right tackle from Jeremy Bridges, who then took Batiste’s place as second-string right guard. No way to know what it means yet — coach Ken Whisenhunt is next available at lunch tomorrow — but at a position where everyone was waiting for a Bridges-versus-Bobby Massie fight, it was an interesting development.

— Sitting out with injuries were FB Jared Crank (neck), CB Michael Adams (hamstring), WR LaRon Byrd (shoulder), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (undisclosed) and LB Paris Lenon (ankle).

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A night of intensity

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2012 – 9:56 pm

The night practices in Flagstaff — especially the first one, which this year means the only one — always brings with it a certain vibe. It’s usually at least a week into camp. By then, the offense and defense are tired of each other. Then coach Ken Whisenhunt pulls out the live goal line session at the end of the evening, and all heck breaks loose.

After Wednesday night’s battle, linebacker Clark Haggans was succinct: “What happens at Lumberjack Stadium stays in Lumberjack Stadium.”

It’s not so much what happens but how it unfolds, with both sides yapping at each other and trash talk of the highest order. It was heated when Kevin Kolb threw a bullet into the back of the end zone that Larry Fitzgerald and Justin Bethel each got a hand on, only to have to ball pop in the air so Fitz could grab a touchdown. It went back the defensive way when fullback Anthony Sherman, on a rare carry, had his helmet blasted off by linebacker Colin Parker. And then the emotion swung to the offense again when offensive coordinator Mike Miller and quarterback John Skelton conspired to fool the world — with Miller calling the exact same play for Sherman and telling Skelton to keep it for a naked bootleg without telling the offense.


“We get the best out of each other,” said tackle Jeremy Bridges, the king of the talkers Wednesday. “We get on each other’s nerves as you can see. It’s bragging rights amongst us. But in the big scheme of things, there will be a lot of people who will feel the wrath of Birdgang this year.”

Cornerback William Gay doesn’t play in the goal line package, but he was up in the defensive unit’s face after every play, like a boxing corner man pumping up his prize fighter.

“It’s the only thing that’s fully, fully live, tackle to the ground,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Situation like that, you can’t let the other unit get the best of you.”

“No one ever wants to lose,” Skelton said. “You want to score a touchdown every time on offense and you don’t want to give up one on defense. It’s just pride.”

There was no official winner — Kolb said Whisenhunt called it a tie — but when Bridges was asked about who won, he didn’t miss a beat. “The Cardinals.”

(And yes, video will be posted later.)

— Kolb said his quad “held up fine” — he was not limited at all — but he knew everything else took a backseat to the part at the end. “The intensity was through the roof.”

— Safety Adrian Wilson and running back William Powell each came out of the practice after what looked like some sort of leg injury for each. Neither looked serious.

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The first depth chart

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2012 – 9:22 am

The Cardinals put out their first official depth chart of the season today. This stuff is fluid given certain competitions, but they have to make someone No. 1 and No. 2 and so on. There are no shocking developments, but:

— Kevin Kolb is listed as the No. 1 QB right now. John Skelton is the No. 2.

— Jeremy Bridges is the No. 1 right tackle over Bobby Massie, and as I have said many many many times, I expect that to be the case for a while.

— With Jeff King still rehabbing his quad, Todd Heap is the No. 1 tight end, Rob Housler No. 2.

— Behind Fitz is DeMarco Sampson and then Stephen Williams. At the other receiver spot, it officially goes Andre Roberts, then Early Doucet, then Michael Floyd.

— William Gay is the No. 1 right cornerback across from Patrick Peterson. Greg Toler is listed as Gay’s backup, with Michael Adams listed as Peterson’s backup.

— Brandon Williams is Sam Acho’s backup, with Clark Haggans as O’Brien Schofield’s backup at OLB. Quentin Groves is behind Haggans.

— With the large roster, the only second team rookies (no starters) are LG Senio Kelemete, FB Jared Crank and Massie. (And the Cards are incredibly unlikely to keep two fullbacks.) T Nate Potter is third-string, Floyd is third-string, S Justin Bethel is third-string and, with the large amount of veteran cornerbacks, Jamell Fleming is technically fourth-string behind Gay, Toler and A.J. Jefferson (although he will be on this roster, no doubt.)

Here is the entire depth chart.

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One breakdown of the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on July 6, 2012 – 9:47 am

As I have mentioned before, work of sites like profootballfocus.com and footballoutsiders.com are always fun to look at because they break down video and try to take a deeper look at some of the game. Whether it’s always accurate you can debate — ultimately, it’s opinion, just like every scout or coach has on players or plays — but this time of year, it’s food for thought.

On FO recently, blogger Ben Muth decided to break down the Cards’ offensive line in their regular-season finale against the Seahawks. Muth, a one-time Stanford starting tackle who had an NFL cup of coffee, admits the Cards are his favorite team (he is from Phoenix, prepping at Pinnacle High School.) It’s just one game he studied, so you can’t make sweeping generalizations on what it means for each player. He does note that guard Rex Hadnot struggled, not a great way for Hadnot to finish up and perhaps a reason the Cards were willing to cut him. He praises the steady play of guard Daryn Colledge and center Lyle Sendlein. He goes deep inside that LaRod Stephens-Howling run where right tackle Jeremy Bridges basically blocked three guys during the coure of the play.

(Side note: These are the things Bridges does sometimes to make me think he can hold off Bobby Massie for a while.)

He also talks about the improvement he has seen from Levi Brown since the last game he broke down. His quote on Levi:

“He played with much better balance in the running game and wasn’t getting thrown off blocks as much. He also did a nice job sitting down on bull rushes throughout the game, a feat that was even more impressive considering he was matched up against Red Bryant for the majority of it. Of course, he still can’t pass off twists because he has no lateral quickness. He did allow a sack, although it was off a linebacker stunt and not a straight twist. Brown also gave back 20 yards in penalties. Still, this was best performance I’ve ever seen Levi Brown give. So there’s that.”



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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 19, 2012 – 8:35 am

Welcome to Part II of Offseason Lineup Guessing, where speculating is sport. While we already tackled the defense, the offense is today’s target. Again, these are just my thoughts on who will be in the starting lineup Sept. 9 against the Seahawks. So much can change between then and now, with injuries or great/poor play in training camp. So before I sign off for a while for vacation, here we go:

WRLarry Fitzgerald. I’m not sure what else I can even say at this point.

WRAndre Roberts. I think Michael Floyd will play an important role for this team, and Early Doucet will play. But if you don’t know by now the level of confidence the coaching staff has in Roberts with his play after last season, you haven’t been paying attention.

TETodd Heap. Jeff King’s injury changed the dynamic here, and I do think Rob Housler is going to get a lot of time. But right now, I picture Heap as the starter. I also picture it changing as Housler emerges and King gets healthy.

LTLevi Brown. This was set in stone the moment the Cards decided to bring him back after they could have let him float away once they cut him. How he performs will be one of the intriguing storylines of the season.

LGDaryn Colledge. His chemistry off the field with interior linemates Adam Snyder and Lyle Sendlein is undeniable. Hopefully that carries over to the field.

C – Sendlein. Not only the anchor of the line, but has matured into true leader.

RG – Snyder. Cards confident he fits perfectly into what they are trying to do.

RTJeremy Bridges. Will Bobby Massie start this season? I can definitely see it. Will it be for the opener? I just think Bridges won’t make it easy. Let the debate begin.

FBAnthony Sherman. He has the right temperament for the position. This spot will also be used for a second tight end, in which case, I’d say King.

RBBeanie Wells. There is really no disputing this one, although Beanie needs to get healthy quickly. Ryan Williams is going to play a major role, though.

QB – The $64,000 question, isn’t it. Right now, I’m going with Kevin Kolb. As I have said many times, I totally can see a scenario where John Skelton starts. Anything now is a pure guess, because it’s going to come down to preseason games. But Kolb is my thought for now.

That’s it for now. It’s something to chew on for a month. Training camp will be here before we know it.

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King hurt, Beanie rehabs and a good first OTA

Posted by Darren Urban on May 22, 2012 – 12:58 pm

The Cardinals had almost everyone on the field today to start OTAs. One man who had hoped to be out there was veteran tight end Jeff King, but it turns out he suffered a partial tear of his quadriceps tendon recently working out at the facility. He had surgery to repair it and is scheduled to return for training camp.

UPDATE: King saw this post on Twitter and responded via Twitter: “Will come back stronger….“The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.” ”

The OTAs, which are voluntary, got great turnout once again. Those who weren’t practicing couldn’t because of injury or other reasons (rookie guard Senio Kelemete isn’t here because the University of Washington remains in session.) As expected running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams were both off to the side rehabbing their respective knee injuries.

Wells expanded on some of his thoughts about sitting out during OTAs, and coach Ken Whisenhunt addressed them as well, saying it was the plan all along to have Wells sitting at this point. Beanie still has no desire to talk details about his surgery. He reiterated it was “a scope, clean things up.” When asked if it was to repair the meniscus, Beanie said it was “a little more complicated.”

“I am pretty confident in being ready when the time is right,” Wells said. “It’s football. I’m just glad to have a job.”

— CB Greg Toler, rehabbing from an ACL tear, has returned. He is limited in his number of reps but did everything. More on him in a later blog post.

— Lineups mean little right now, but William Gay was working on the top unit at cornerback with Patrick Peterson (although the secondary coaches were careful to call their lineups 1a and 1b right now). Jeremy Bridges is working as the top right tackle. Kevin Kolb was with the top unit at quarterback. At receiver — although that’s a position that always tends to be fluid during OTAs and practices when everyone is trying to get reps — Andre Roberts joined Larry Fitzgerald, DeMarco Sampson was with Early Doucet next, and then came Michael Floyd and Stephen Williams.

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Cards grab tackle Massie in the fourth round

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 10:11 am

So many fans were upset when the Cards didn’t take Ole Miss tackle Bobby Massie with their third round pick, instead taking cornerback Jamell Fleming. But it worked out Saturday morning, because Massie was still on the board when the Cards had their fourth-round pick and the Cards scooped him up. Some thought Massie could go late in the second round, although a lot of the highly-rated tackle slipped to the second round, pushing him lower.

Massie said he wasn’t sure why he dropped and I’m not sure who would be. He didn’t sound thrilled about it — who would be — but wasn’t going to have any regret about coming out early. Certainly, without him setting foot in Tempe yet, Massie has a chance to be a real steal — although everyone says that about fourth-round picks, and sometimes that happens  (Sam Acho) and sometimes it doesn’t (Elton Brown.)

He’s 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds and said he’s been exclusively a right tackle in college. Interestingly, he said his strength is in pass blocking. Will he end up as a starter? He’s got a chance. I’d think this makes Brandon Keith’s return a longshot now, and Massie would have to beat out Jeremy Bridges. Levi Brown looks safe on the left side.

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Niners aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 11, 2011 – 11:05 pm

The Cards hang a 21-19 loss on the 49ers Sunday, as satisfying of a victory as they have had all season – that’s 10 games decided by seven points or less, still tied with the Denver Tebows for most in the league, and the Cards have won six of them – but you could tell that hint of frustration from wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald afterward.

OK, maybe it was more than a hint.

“It kind of pisses you off a little bit because you know the team we were capable of being,” Fitzgerald said, noting the Cards’ rally from that six-game losing streak that put them in a hole it’s going to be hard from which to emerge. “The way we’re playing now and the way we were playing earlier during the six-game skid just really makes you upset.

“If we had won just two or three of those games, we would possibly be fighting for the division.”

That’s true, but I am guessing the Rams – twice – and Eagles and Cowboys and Niners are all lamenting the same thing when it comes to the Cards. Bottom line: The Cards could have packed it in after falling to 1-6. They didn’t. “How many times during those first weeks did we say that we were going to stay the course?” coach Ken Whisenhunt noted (and I know that frustrated some fans to no end). So here we are.

“That’s one thing I’ll say about these Cardinals: There is no quit,” tackle Jeremy Bridges said.

— I’m sticking to my theme of waiting until Cards get to .500 before talking postseason possibility.

— But considering the Giants/Lions/Falcons all could have lost today and won, ouch. Thank goodness for the Tebows taking out the Bears. Somehow.

— Was it me or did it look like linebackers Sam Acho and Clark Haggans chased 49ers quarterback Alex Smith for five minutes on that final fourth-and-1 play? “Last week coach took me out for a little bit, and it was like, ‘We need you to rush the passer and you’re getting tired,’ ” Acho said. “All that was going through my head was, ‘You can’t be tired – it’s the last play.’ Clark and I were just running in circles trying to make something happen.”

— The defense can’t get enough praise for Sunday. I mean, the 49ers had the ball for more than 22 minutes in the first half – and had just four field goals and a 12-7 lead. “Could’ve gotten ugly, right?” cornerback Patrick Peterson said with a grin. Uh, yes.

— Five more sacks, by five different players. For a second straight week. The list this week: Peterson (his first NFL sack), Daryl Washington, Nick Eason, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.

— Campbell was huge again Sunday. He is playing so, so well.

— No, Adrian Wilson didn’t hang on to the two passes that looked like they should have been intercepted. But he played another excellent game Sunday and has found a groove in this defense. To paraphrase SI writer Jim Trotter, reports of Wilson’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

— How important is field position for the 49ers’ offense? San Fran started 10 drives on its side of the 50. They scored three points. Their other four scoring “drives” started on the Arizona 43, 4, 16 and 37.

— Didn’t we just say the Cards couldn’t afford to mess up the turnover battle? Cards had three turnovers. Niners didn’t turn it over. How do you explain it? (Well, it starts with a D.) San Fran scored just three points off those three turnovers.

— The Cards didn’t have three touchdown passes in a game all of 2010. They did it once previous this season, when John Skelton had three in Philly. But in that game, two went to Fitz, one to Early Doucet. Sunday was the first time the Cards had three different receivers catch TD passes since Fitz (2), Steve Breaston, Ben Patrick and Anthony Becht did it in Chicago Nov. 8, 2009.

— John Skelton was not good his last two starts. He ended up playing pretty well Sunday. We’ve said this before, but his resiliency is so impressive. It might be, even beyond his big arm, his best attribute. It won’t always translate into success, but he couldn’t have any success without it.

— Loved watching Bridges block a pair of Niner DBs — Chris Culliver and Dashon Goldson — by himself on Early Doucet’s big screen pass the play before Andre Roberts’ TD catch. Rex Hadnot had a great peelback block on linebacker Aldon Smith on the play too.

— Kevin Kolb took a knee to the back of the head by linebacker Ahmad Brooks as he was being sacked by Justin Smith. We’ll see what that means for Kolb this week.

— Punter Dave Zastudil is playing with a torn biceps in his arm. If things go like normal, that doesn’t have to cost him time, but it’s tough. Yet Zastudil averaged 46.6 yards a kick Sunday.

— Odd that Frank Gore, who had the 37-yard TD run, got only 10 rushes (for 72 yards). Niners coach Jim Harbaugh only said “No, not a reason” when asked if there was a reason Gore played less than normal. Cards won’t argue.

— The 49ers win the NFC West this season. But, given that, the Cards will take what they got Sunday. “I’ll tell you this,” Campbell said. “When the game was over and we came out on top, it felt like a Super Bowl win.”

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Kolb inactive, Heap to play, Bridges starts

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2011 – 9:31 am

Quarterback Kevin Kolb will remain inactive another week with his toe/foot injuries, so — as expected — John Skelton will start with Rich Bartel as the backup. The Cardinals will have tight end Todd Heap back, although how much will have to be seen. He was active the last game against the Rams and only played a couple of plays. Fellow tight end Rob Housler remains out. Tackle Brandon Keith is active, but after his concussion, it will be veteran Jeremy Bridges starting on the right side.

Fullback Anthony Sherman finally returns to the starting lineup, with Reagan Maui’a inactive.

Besides Kolb, Housler and Maui’a, the rest of the Cards’ inactives today:

  • WR Stephen Williams
  • S Kerry Rhodes (foot)
  • LB Joey Porter (knee)
  • T D’Anthony Batiste

One other good nugget: Fox play-by-play man Sam Rosen is working his fourth Cards’ game of the year today. In each of the previous three, Patrick Peterson has a punt return for a touchdown. So take that for what it’s worth (which is coincidence, but still, a fun fact.)

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Kolb’s football flow and Thanksgiving notes

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2011 – 1:29 pm

Quarterback Kevin Kolb was “a little sore” in practice today after his most extensive work Wednesday since getting hurt, but that was to be expected, coach Ken Whisenhunt said following Thanksgiving practice.

“It’s just a thing where he has to warm it up,” Whisenhunt said, pointing out Kolb didn’t have any setback. “He has to get back into the flow of football.”

— The Cardinals did get Jeremy Bridges back for practice today — he missed Wednesday for personal reasons — which is good, since starting right tackle Brandon Keith has yet to pass his concussion test. Whisenhunt said the hope is that Keith will pass all the tests by tomorrow and be able to practice, but that’s TBD.

— Other than Bridges, the injury report was unchanged from Wednesday.

— Adam Schefter reported 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was fined $25,000 for his ejection in the Early Doucet scuffle from Sunday. Doucet, meanwhile, was fined $10,000 for his role in the fight.

— The players got a chance to bail out after practice, with no afternoon meetings so they could get to their holiday. Whiz did have a message for them before that, though.

“You can’t forget, we have practice (Friday),” Whisenhunt said. “The point you have to make with the players is that it’s great we don’t have meetings and you get to spend time with the family, but we have to come back and work tomorrow, clean up the things we made mistakes on today.”

Whiz and the coaches still had to prep for Friday, but then, their own families waited. “Eat a little, not a lot,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s the goal.”

A good goal to have. With props to Jimmy O for helping me out and letting me have my own family time, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

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